resigned

31 State lawmakers who resigned in shame in 2017 [or should have]

If I have counted correctly, at least 31 legislators in 24 states resigned in disgrace [or should have] in 2017. This development is shocking, but it is hardly new. Many state representatives and state senators were shamed into calling it quits in recent years as well. It’s just that this year, I decided to do a news-search to survey the landscape and to explore the scope of this phenomenon. What follows are the results of my non-scientific, state-by-state search.

I have included only state legislators reported to have resigned as a result of one form of misbehavior or another. I’m not including US Congressional representatives or Senators. I’m not including state legislators who quit to pursue higher office, or because of health/family issues, or to assume an appointed administrative position or take a job as a lobbyist. I’m also not listing those who simply decided not to run for office again after many years in a legislature.

The only people in this roundup are state legislators and party officials, plus one governor, who resigned from their offices or party leadership positions because of behavior deemed to be socially, morally or ethically shameful, or because of misdeeds that resulted in criminal investigations and/or charges.  In addition, there are several more who, according to public sentiment or party leadership, should resign, but haven’t done so.

Unfortunately, even with those exclusions, there are too many state legislators who fit into the ignominious category in 2017. I don’t pretend that this list is comprehensive: I probably have missed some. Still, even if it’s incomplete, it is dismayingly lengthy, so this promises to be a long post. And, sorry, but most of them happen to be Republicans. That’s how the chips fell.

Here’s what I found, listed by the type of misbehavior.

Sexual misconduct

These are some of the ickiest behaviors that turned up in my search. In calling for the resignation of a one state legislator who engaged in sexual misbehavior, one state majority leader reportedly said that this conduct “does not rise to the standards of behavior that we expect of elected officials.” But judging from how many state legislators across the country have engaged in—and gotten away with– these inappropriate acts, you have to wonder whether sexual misconduct itself is, indeed, the standard. And you have to ask yourself how much more of this is going unreported.

Examples from 2017:

In South Dakota, State representative Matthew Wollman [R] resigned in January, after admitting to having sexual relationships with interns during the past two legislative sessions.

In Louisiana, State Senator Tony Brown [D] resigned in February rather than face expulsion by the State Senate. According to the Times-Picayune, he had pleaded no contest twice in four months to misdemeanor charges related to domestic abuse—one charge lodged by his wife, and another by a woman who called herself his “side friend.”

Also in February, Tennessee House Representative Mark Lovell [R], in his first year in the house, resigned amid allegations that he had inappropriate sexual contact with a woman. He denied wrongdoing but resigned anyway. Lovell’s other job is listed as a “fair and carnival operator.”

Two Oklahoma state Senators resigned in disgrace in 2017: Oklahoma state Senator Ralph Shortey [R} resigned in March after facing felony child prostitution charges for soliciting sex from a 17-year-old boy.

Oklahoma’s Bryce Marlatt [R] resigned in September after being charged with sexual battery. He was named as a suspect in an assault on an Uber driver, in which he allegedly grabbed the driver forcefully and kissed her on the neck while she was driving.

In Nevada,  State Senator Mark Menendo {D], accused of sexual harassment in May, stepped down as chairman of Nevada’s Senate Committee on Transportation.

In October, Ohio State Senator Cliff Hite [R] resigned, citing “failing health” and “a mistaken judgment.” He admitted to “inappropriate conversations with a state employee, sometimes “asking her for hugs.” The female state employee said she rejected Hite’s advances more than a dozen times over two months, according to a state document. [In response, Ohio’s Senate president announced implementation of sexual harassment training.]

In the subcategory of “probably should have resigned, but didn’t” we have:

Iowa State Senator Bill Dix, the GOP majority leader, who settled a sexual harassment case lodged by a former GOP caucus staff member to the tune of $1.75 million in July, and California State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra [D], about whom it was revealed in November that, eight years ago, when he was a top legislative aide, he was disciplined after being accused of groping another staffer.

In Kentucky, a quartet: Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover [R], resigned as speaker in November—but did not give up his elected seat—after admitting to secretly settling a sexual harassment claim, to which three other state legislators are also signatories: State Rep. Brian Linder [R], Michael Meredith [R] and Jim DeCesare [R].  Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has called for the resignation of any elected official who settles a sexual harassment claim.

And in Minnesota, State Senator Dan Schoen [D], has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, who describe behavior by Schoen that ranges from persistent and unwanted invitations to meet to physically grabbing a woman from behind. One woman, who asked to not be identified, said he sent her a photo of male genitalia via Snapchat. Schoen denies engaging in any inappropriate behavior.

Inappropriate and offensive statements

In Nebraska, State Senator Bill Kintner [R}—who had previously been fined for having cybersex using a state computer—resigned in January after re-tweeting a message that implied that participants in the post-Inaugural Women’s March were “too unattractive to be victims of sexual assault.”  Kintner did not apologize for his comments.

In New Hampshire, State Representative Robert Fisher [R], resigned in May, saying it was “out of concern for the safety of himself, his girlfriend and his family.” The issue was his creation of an incendiary forum on Reddit, known as The Red Pill, in which rape was described as “not an absolute bad.” His comments on women included these words: “I don’t hate women. I just understand what use they are to me…stimulating conversation is not one of them.”  Fisher faced no sanctions, according to a New Hampshire legislative committee, because his online behavior took place before he was elected in 2016.

In Rhode Island, Joseph De Lorenzo—not an elected official, but 2nd vice president of the Democratic State Committee—quit the party, under pressure, after making dismissive comments about a Democratic state representative’s sexual harassment claims against a fellow—unnamed—lawmaker. Similarly, in New Mexico, a county Republican Party chairman was forced to resign in August, after posting social media comments about “violent, leftist protesters.

As for others who said offensive things and did not lose their jobs, we have:

Virgil Peck [R], a state representative from Kansas, who, in March, publicly stated,” Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem,”, according to The Wichita Eagle.

In Missouri, State Representative Warren Love [R], stated on his Facebook page that, “people who vandalized a Confederate monument should be found and hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”

Elsewhere in Missouri, State Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal [D], in a Facebook comment, suggested that Donald Trump be assassinated.

Campaign finance violations/malfeasance in office

In January, State Representative Micha Neal [R] of Arkansas resigned after pleading guilty in a scheme in which he took $38,000 in kickbacks from $600,000 in state grants to two nonprofit entities in Northwest Arkansas. Another Arkansas State Representative—Jake Files [R]has been under investigation for wire fraud and pocketing $25,000 in taxpayer General Improvement Funds. To date, Files has not resigned.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley [R] resigned from office in April, after it was determined that he failed to file a major campaign contribution report, knowingly converted campaign contributions to personal use, and—by the way—covered up his extra-marital relationship with an aide.

Also in April, Oklahoma State Representative Kyle Loveless [R] resigned when it was announced that he was under criminal investigation for embezzling campaign donations.

State Senator Andre Cushing [R] of Maine resigned as assistant majority leader in October, after he was fined $9,000 for violating the state’s campaign finance laws.

In Arizona, State Representative Jesus Rubalcava [D] resigned in July after a random audit from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission found problems with his accounting. A follow-up audit identified $9,200 in expenditures that could not clearly be determined to be related to his campaign.

In South Carolina, State Representative Jim Merrill [R] resigned in August. A grand jury indicted him in December 2016 on two counts of misconduct in office and 28 counts of ethics violations. He is accused of illegally profiting from his position. Merrill is one of three legislators suspended by a state probe into statehouse corruption.

In Maryland, State Delegate Michael L. Vaughn [D] resigned in January, just minutes before the 2017 session convened. He was not charged with a crime, but is rumored to have been a possible informant in a case involving bribery of two former state lawmakers and two county liquor board officials.

State Representative Brandon Hixon [R], of Idaho, resigned in October, when it was revealed that he was involved in an active criminal investigation that had begun two weeks previously. No charges were filed at the time of his resignation, and no details were available.

And in Michigan, State Representative Brian Banks [R] resigned in February, as he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing false financial statements. He faced four criminal charges, for falsifying documents to obtain a $3,000 loan from a credit union. He also faked employment records in 2016, stating that he worked at a company where he had never been employed.

And the year is not over.

  • Stacy Mergenthal

    After a while, when you’ve dealt with so very many incidents like the ones being perpetrated by the above lawmakers, when we’re hearing so many people come forward with their stories, and when you hear from that sub sect of anti-feminism men about the evils and perils of women’s empowerment, it starts feeling like the norm. Like good men are the exception rather than the rule. I think most of us know far more good men than not, it’s just hard not to feel overwhelmed by all of this right now. And really pissed, too! I actually PAID for a Louis CK ticket to go see him at Scott Trade Center earlier this year. BLECH. Feels a lot like enabling his awful behavior.